What is Shamanic Drumming?
Shamanic drumming is drumming for the purpose of inducing a range of ecstatic trance states in order to connect with the spiritual dimension of reality. Practiced in diverse cultures around the planet, this drum method is strikingly similar the world over. Shamanic drumming uses a repetitive rhythm that begins slowly and then gradually builds in intensity to a tempo of three to seven beats per second. The ascending tempo will induce light to deep trance states, and facilitate the shamanic techniques of journeying, shapeshifting, and divination. Practitioners may progress through a series of trance states until they reach the level that is necessary for healing to occur. When ready to exit the trance state, the practitioner simply slows the tempo of drumming, drawing consciousness back to normal. Shamanic drumming continues to offer today what it has offered for thousands of years: namely, a simple and effective technique of ecstasy.
A Bridge to the Spirit World
In oral-aural cultures, sound is regarded as one of the most effective ways of establishing connections with the spirit realm, since it travels through space, permeates visual and physical barriers, and conveys information from the unseen world. Tuvan shamans believe that the spirits of nature create their own sound world, and it is possible for humans to communicate with them through the sound of the drum. A shamanic ritual often begins with heating the drum head over a fire to bring it up to the desired pitch. Shamans may strike certain parts of the drum to summon particular helping spirits. It is the subtle variations in timbre and ever-changing overtones of the drum that allow the shaman to communicate with the spiritual realm. The shaman uses the drum to create a bridge to the spirit world, while simultaneously opening the awareness of all the participants to that bridge.
Ritual music is a universal way to address the spirit world and provide some kind of fundamental change in an individual's consciousness or in the ambience of a gathering. All elements of drum music such as timbre, rhythm, volume and tempo play an important role in a shamanic ritual performance. By using different parts of the drumstick to play on different parts of the drum, different timbres can be produced for transmitting different meanings. Different rhythms transmit different meanings and enable the shaman to contact different beings in different realms of the cosmos. Volume and tempo arouse feelings in the listener and communicate symbolic meanings directly as aural sense experience.
The key to understanding the shaman's world is to realize that the universe is made of vibrational energy; that it is a single, flowing, rhythmic being. According to quantum physics, everything in the universe, from the smallest subatomic particle to the largest star, has an inherent vibrational pattern. The entire universe is created through vibration and can be influenced through the vibrations of shamanic drumming. The shamanic drum is a tool for altering the vibrational state of the shaman and/or the patient or a particular situation in the community. To put it simply, shamanic drumming is an ancient form of rhythm healing.
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